Alacero (Latin American steel association) hosted the Congreso Virtual 2020 this week, where various leaders spoke of how the Latin American steel industry has begun to recover and is now close to pre-pandemic levels.
Mexico’s economy secretary, Graciela Marquez spoke on the reindustrialization of Latin America. The Mexican economy has begun to recover from the two-month COVID-19 shutdowns and returned to pre-pandemic production in most cases. Mexico is supporting strategic sectors to establish itself as the first-choice for new products. Marquez spoke of how most of the country’s manufacturing is export-oriented and how this needs to be re-evaluated for better investments.
Journalist Andres Oppenheimer added the need for Latin America to invest in automation. According to the International Robotics Association, Latin American trend at 3-44 robots per 10,000 employees while China has a per capita of 187 robots per 10,000 employees which grows exponentially to 800-950 per 10,000 employees in South Korea and Singapore.
Usiminas chief executive officer Sergio Letite de Andrade noted the challenge faced by the steel industry in Brazil but welcomed the industry’s rebound in the past few months and revived vehicle production. Arcelor Mittal’s chief executive officer Jefferson de Paula highlighted that while all South American countries are beginning to recuperate, some like Brazil are facing stronger economic activity while Argentina’s steel industry was hit harder. Asesco’s chief executive officer, Carlos Arturo Zuluaga, said Colombian steel was buoyed by the subsidies facilitated by the national government.
In Brazil, most mills resumed pre-pandemic production and yet the region is growing at a rate that lacks sufficient rebar and certain flat steel products. The dynamic Brazilian market should also support regional demand for steel imports from neighboring countries.
Maria Juliana Ospina, director of Colombia’s Committee of Steel Producers, noted the loss of production and sales in Latin America due to COVID-19 in 2020 but also the potential negative effect from Europe’s second economic slowdown. Ospina highlighted China’s continued role in the worldwide steel overcapacity problem. She also pointed out how antidumping and safeguard measures were important for a uniform recovery in the steel market.